Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

a telling question.

This puzzler says something about our culture. It says we think in terms of causes that happen before their effects. That we don’t believe in reflexive causality.

In life, everything interesting is a circle. The mitochondria breaks down sugar, the proteins use the energy, they keep up the cell wall, the cell wall protect the mitochondria. The thriving of each one feeds the thriving of the others. I feel cranky, so I work with less patience, so I get way more errors, so I get more cranky. There aren’t many women in programming, women don’t picture themselves in programming, there are fewer women in programming. Poverty eats time and brainpower, leaving less for study and thinking, and stereotypes reinforce themselves. Suspect an employee is underperforming, and you can drive them to underperform. Or a nation’s economy is tight, citizens get paranoid and vote to increase barriers, their economy shrinks. A family helps each other, becomes a tighter and more successful unit, and helps each other even more.

Circles like these form systems. Enduring systems like a family, or short-lived whirlpools like me being cranky. Biologically, these emerge as organisms and ecosystems. As people, organizations and religions and markets and successful companies emerge from circles of mutual interdependence.

most causality is circular. Example: when I go to conferences, it means I learn cool stuff by talking to people, which means I think of interesting things to research and talk about (extra help from conversations with people I met), which means I get invited to speak (extra help for learning cool stuff at the speakers dinner), which means I go to conferences; circle repeats. Emergent property: Jessitron, international speaker.

Love has a circular causality. I find you interesting, that feels good, which makes you like me, which makes me more interesting, which feels good to me, so I like who I am with you, so I tell you sweet things. This cycles into a relationship.

There is no single cause of this phenomenon. That spark of compatibility when we met, we can point to a beginning in this case, to a “before.” but our whole life together wasn’t there. We built that moment by moment in the feedback loop of caring for each other.

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is a fallacy: the fallacy of root cause. Of linear causality.

Linear causality happens, but in real life, it is the exception. An edge case. Everything interesting is a circle.